SitePoint Smackdown: Atom vs Brackets vs Light Table vs Sublime Text

By Craig Buckler
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A new breed of editor has arrived. It fills the gaping void between basic text applications (Notepad, TextEdit, gedit, etc.) and full Integrated Development Environments (VisualStudio, Eclipse, NetBeans etc.) Simpler applications lack basic development requirements such as multiple documents, line numbering and code coloring. IDEs tend to be monolithic applications which cater for a specific language, framework or platform.

This review considers sophisticated code editors with the following criteria. All must be:

  1. Suited to web development
  2. Cross-platform and work on Windows, Mac and Linux. Your preferences and settings should be available regardless of which OS you’re using.
  3. General-purpose text editors which support typical web languages. You should be able to use the same application for HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, SQL, markdown and more.
  4. Highly customizable with cross-platform plugins and themes.
  5. Fast and stable. Launching should never be a once-a-day dread like some IDEs.
  6. Immediately usable without a steep learning curve or having to remember numerous keyboard shortcuts.

Sorry Vim and Emacs fans — console-based applications have been excluded — but you were never going to consider an alternative editor anyway! I’ve also rejected browser-based editors such as Cloud9 and CodeEnvy because they tend to be a little too web-oriented and cannot be used offline. Finally, it’s not possible to cover every editor matching these criteria but let us know if there are any you’d like considered for a future review (such as the new Lime Text project).

About SitePoint Smackdowns

Developers spend many, many hours using their chosen editor. It’s a subjective decision and, once you have the perfect configuration, it’s difficult to switch to another application. That said, SitePoint Smack-downs are not “use whatever suits you, buddy” reviews; the writer (me in this case) will make recommendations based on their own experience, requirements and biases. You’ll agree with some points and disagree with others; that’s great — add your comments so we can help others make an informed choice. We’ll also endeavour to keep these articles up-to-date, with new information added as necessary.

Let’s look at the contenders.

Sublime Text

First, we have Sublime Text. The C++ and Python application was written by Jon Skinner and has attracted more than 2.5 million users since its launch in 2008. Reviews have been mostly positive and, while it wasn’t the first sophisticated text editor, it set the bar for those which followed.

Sublime Text editor

Key features include:

  • comprehensive language support with TextMate-compatible grammars
  • multiple selections and column editing
  • “Goto Anything” quick navigation to locate files and code
  • a command palette to access all features
  • a mini-map and code snippets
  • extensive customization, great themes and numerous plugins
  • good-looking, fast and stable

Unlike the other contenders, Sublime Text is a commercial product costing $70 per user (you can have as many installations as you like). You can evaluate the product for as long as you need; it’ll nag you to purchase a license every so often. $70 is considerably more expensive than free but divide it by the number of hours usage and the cost becomes negligible.

Sublime Text is the most mature application and the only one not in a pre-release phase (although I was using version 3 beta for the purpose of this review). It therefore has a slight advantage but all the contenders are usable today.


Atom is a new editor from GitHub. The open source beta application is developed in Node.js, CoffeeScript, LESS and C++ in webkit wrapper. To suggest Atom was influenced by Sublime Text is an understatement:

Atom Editor

Key features include:

  • Free and open source on all platforms
  • Integration with Git and GitHub
  • A well-documented open API for plugin developers
  • Immediately usable with less reliance on configuration files
  • A good selection of themes and plugins with a built-in package manager
  • Sublime Text and vim-compatible shortcuts
  • Attractive interface

At the time of writing, Atom is reasonably easy to install on Mac and has a built-in updater. The Windows and Linux versions are a little behind with the latter requiring source build instructions.


Brackets is an open source editor from Adobe. It’s been specifically created for web developers and is written in HTML, CSS and JavaScript using CodeMirror in a Node.js container.

Brackets Editor

Key features include:

  • Free and open source on all platforms
  • Good language and linting support especially for web development
  • Live browser preview and updates without a server (requires Chrome)
  • Inline CSS editing
  • A well-documented open API for plugin developers
  • Immediately usable with less reliance on configuration files
  • A good selection of themes and plugins with a built-in package manager
  • Multiple selection editing, auto-complete and color picker
  • Attractive interface

The project is developed in sprints and a new version is available every 2-3 weeks. There’s no auto-update yet, but the editor will warn you when a new version of the application and plugins are available.

Light Table

Light Table is a late contender. The crowd-funded Kickstarter campaign raised more than $300,000 for Chris Granger & Robert Attorri to develop the open source editor in ClojureScript with a Node-webkit wrapper.

Light Table Editor

Key features include:

  • Free and open source on all platforms
  • Lightweight installation
  • Good-looking, fast minimalist interface
  • Auto-complete everywhere
  • Inline evaluation and watches
  • Split views and instant feedback
  • A command palette and fuzzy finder
  • A good selection of themes provided
  • A plugin manager with a reasonable selection extensions and an open API coming soon
  • Application auto-update (I’m yet to experience this!)

Light Table describes itself as “the next generation code editor”. It aims to provide a flexible interface, real-time evaluation, live visualization and documentation where you need it. The editor is still in an early phase of development and language support is more limited than the other contenders.

Evaluation Methodology

I’ve been using all the editors for HTML, CSS/Sass, JavaScript, PHP, Node.js, Ruby and SQL development on three machines:

  • Windows 8.1 — a reasonably powerful 18 month-old laptop
  • Mac OS X 10.8 — a mid-range two year-old Mac Pro
  • Lubuntu 14.04 — an aging five year-old laptop

Inevitably, some editors have been used more than others owing to their release schedules:

  • Sublime Text 3 beta was installed on all platforms and used for six months.
  • Atom 0.123 (and below) was installed on Mac only and used for four months.
  • Brackets 0.42 (and below) was installed on all platforms and used for 12 months (although I initially tried it in 2012)
  • Light Table 0.6.7 was installed on all platforms and used for six weeks. It’s a late contender so it hasn’t received as much testing.

Let the battle commence!

Round 1: The Interface

Text editors don’t necessarily need to be pretty, but you’ll be staring at it all day so it helps if the interface is clean and usable, and also that it stays out of the way during marathon coding sessions. Color coding and customizable themes are essential and, while Sublime Text offers the most options, the other editors have a good range which can be adjusted to your liking.

It’s difficult to choose a favorite because they all look similar. In addition, I prefer Sublime Text’s default Monokai theme, but the others offer similar variations.

The winner: Brackets — but only just. It provides the most consistent cross-platform experience and looks great. It’s let down by font rendering, which doesn’t seem as smooth as other editors, but some tweaking can solve that issue.

Atom is a close second. It has a slight edge on Sublime Text which looks somewhat out of place on Windows. Finally, Light Table has little interface to judge — but that could be an asset.

Round 2: Syntax Support

All the contenders can edit source files regardless of syntax. However, Sublime Text wins the category because it offers color coding and assistance for dozens of popular and arcane languages.

Atom and Brackets aren’t far behind and have plugin support for lesser-used syntaxes. Light Table primarily concentrates on Clojure, ClojureScript, Javascript, Python, HTML and CSS but the situation will improve as the editor evolves.

Round 3: Ease of Use and Learning Curve

The ideal editor will make you productive on day one and allow you to discover features over time. Brackets takes an easy win; most options are available from the menu and interface without having to edit configuration files (although they’re still available).

Sublime Text is packed full of features but finding, configuring and using them is another matter. Atom is slightly better in that respect but still has a relatively steep learning curve compared to Brackets.

On the other hand, Light Table hides its power, and you’ll need to read documents and watch videos to learn basic operations such as enabling word-wrap or changing indentation settings.

Round 4: Speed and Stability

No contest: Sublime Text is far faster than the other editors and I don’t recall a single crash or loss of work.

Light Table is also quick. It managed to open large 25Mb file faster than Sublime Text, although editing was more sluggish. Atom is noticeably slower. It’s usable although opening large files isn’t possible — the editor currently has a 2Mb limit.

Finally, Brackets has higher hardware requirements, starts slower and I’ve experienced several crashes with multiple and large files. I’d happily use it for editing HTML, CSS and JavaScript but may think twice about opening a lengthy SQL dump.

Round 5: Native Feature Set

How good is the editor before you start adding plugins? The winner is Sublime Text: it offers a wide range of features out of the box. Perhaps this is inevitable for a commercial product.

Other contenders take a more minimal approach, with a basic editor supplemented by plugins offering advanced options should you require them. Even auto-complete is a plugin for Atom, and Brackets doesn’t yet have a split view. On balance, I prefer this philosophy but Sublime Text manages to remain nimble and light despite the extra functionality.

Round 6: Web-Specific Features

An easy win for Brackets. The editor is developed with web technologies to help build web technologies. Front-end coders can enjoy novel features including:

  • Live Preview: launch a page in a browser and watch changes in real-time as you edit.
  • CSS Quick Edit: hit Ctrl/Cmd+E when editing HTML to reveal and edit the CSS styles associated with that element.
  • Code completion, a color picker, image previewer and animation timing bezier curve editor.
  • Some great extensions such as the Theseus JavaScript debugger and CSS shapes editor.

Brackets has less emphasis on server-side languages but basic syntax support is available.

Light Table follows with workspaces, browser preview panes, live editing, code evaluation, auto-complete and documentation. Surprisingly, it’s not possible to view image files despite the editor having a browser base.

Atom and Sublime Text are more general-purpose editors. They may be less web-oriented but have further options.

Round 7: Plugins and Extensions

Sublime Text seems the obvious winner — the editor has almost 2,500 extensions. That said, quality is variable and package control is more difficult than the competition. Sublime Text’s API documentation is minimal, it’s not possible for plugins to interact with the whole interface and Python knowledge is required.

I’m therefore giving additional credit to Atom and Brackets. While neither has the range or variety of extensions, plugin management is far superior and both have open, well-documented APIs. Developing extensions in JavaScript is a welcome bonus for web developers.

Light Table has a small number of plugins and the API is not complete at the time of writing.

Round 8: Customization and Hackability

This category is more difficult to assess, since all the editors are designed to be highly customizable. After much deliberation, the winner is Atom. It has similar configuration files to Sublime Text, but many options can be discovered within the interface. Documentation is better and the editor’s source is available should you require deeper changes or plugin development.

Brackets has plenty of options and is also open source, but it’s not as configurable as Atom and Sublime Text. Light Table’s level of customization is good, but it’s more complex, even with comprehensive auto-completion and assistance.

Round 9: The Future

Sublime Text’s pace of development has slowed although that’s understandable given its maturity. Its future as a commercial product is less certain given that Atom — the winner in this category — is backed by GitHub who are giving it away for free. The editor will be hard to beat once the final version is released on all platforms.

Brackets also has a positive future: it’s backed by Adobe and has dozens of contributers. The number of features and plugins has grown significantly during the past few months.

It’s too early to predict Light Table’s future. The editor is promising and works well on less powerful hardware, but it’s taking a fairly radical path and I’m not convinced it will gain mass appeal.

Round 10: The Overall Winner

The rounds have been surprisingly close. If we presume round 7 was a three-way tie, Atom won three with Brackets and Sublime Text on four each. All the editors are good but, if I had to choose a single editor today, it would be an easy decision. Sublime Text remains the editor to beat despite the monetary cost. The editor is fast, stable and has a ridiculous number of features and plugins. The downside: features can be difficult to discover and you’ll have a nagging doubt you’re not using the editor to its full advantage.

The Cheapskate Option

If you’d rather not shell out for Sublime Text, you have a few options. If you use a Mac, Atom shows promise. While it won fewer rounds than Brackets it was a strong second in most categories. If it were a little faster and easier to install on Windows and Linux, Sublime Text could struggle to compete. The web development community will almost certainly prefer the open JavaScript API plugin architecture.

Brackets did well. It’s evolving rapidly, has web development features you won’t find elsewhere and feels polished on all platforms. Speed and stability can mar the experience but it’s a viable option for front-end developers with a reasonably powerful machine.

Although Light Table didn’t win any rounds, it’s an interesting project with a radical approach. It’s lightweight and fast on modest hardware but you’ll need to invest time learning how to use and configure the editor. Few of us have the patience but I suspect it could gain an underground Vim-like quasi-religious following.

The editors are free so you can install and use them interchangeably. I usually reach for Atom when I’m doing project work on the Mac. Brackets is my preferred choice on the PC for client-side projects or markdown files (there’s a great preview plugin). Finally, I use Light Table for quick viewing and editing on all OSs.

Ultimately, it’s congratulations to Sublime Text, which remains the editor of choice!

Do you agree with Craig’s choice? Please leave your comments, and let us know which products you’d like compared (not just text editors) in future SitePoint Smack-downs.

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  • I switched to Atom from Sublime recently but was forced to switch back for performance reasons, Atom is extremely slow in enormous projects. I found particularly encumbered by the constant re-indexing of the project files, preventing quickly jumping between files.

    • TheOmegaPixel

      I’ve also experienced mass amounts of errors within “popular” plugins making a slow experience even slower.

      I left ST due to it’s somewhat closed nature but it seems to be working better than the totally open Atom.

      • Craig Buckler

        Remember that Atom’s still in beta so there’s much development to do…

        • TheOmegaPixel

          Oh totally – I’m just at a point where I have to table it completely until it gets to a more finished state. ST3 is technically beta but have never had a major issue like the ones I have with Atom.

          • Craig Buckler

            Sounds nasty. I didn’t have considerable problems, but I guess you’ve been trying it on larger or more complex projects. ST3 is a beta but (I’m guessing) it’s based on ST2 and isn’t a complete re-write. It would be more complete than Atom.

          • TheOmegaPixel

            A majority of my work is on larger projects which seems to be the one downfall of Atom at the moment, which is totally understandable. I’m definitely not shelving it for good – I’m even still waiting for that Coda 3 release :)

    • That’s interesting. I haven’t yet used Atom for large projects. (What is your definition of large?) Is this an issue you would consider posting to the Atom GitHub repository?

      • I’m pretty sure it’s already been reported. The project in question is Chromium, including the ~100 dependencies which sublime handles very well after a minute or two of opening the project (initial indexing).

  • Aw555000

    I recently moved from Dreamweaver to Brackets, I love the live preview and jump to css options, really useful imo.

    • I agree the CSS/HTML selection highlighting is great feature.

    • I, too, am trying to “graduate” from DW to become a better coder. Your comment compelled me to download Brackets. I must say that I really like its sleek design and and Live feature. I also love how it highlights opening/closing tags, which makes it easier to catch errors. Thanks again.

      • I’m glad ya found my comment helpful. I hope your coding is going well :)

  • yannux

    Working long time with Textmate, switched from months to Sublimetext. Brackets seems good to make quickly frontend html/css/js. I’m going to use it to make a quick html mockup this week.

  • Abdi Haikal

    I agree with you..
    Sublime Text is still the best until now

    • Medet Tl

      guess you never tried visual-studio + web-essentials

      • Abdi Haikal

        Surely Dude…
        Those also a great back-to-back tools indeed..

      • ide = { ‘PHPStorm’, ‘WebStorm’, ‘Eclipse’, ‘NetBeans’, ‘Aptana’ }

        foreach (ide as x) {
        echo “question: guess you never tried $x”
        echo “answer: but $x is a full ide and sometimes you will use a text-editor like sublime text ;)”

        • CrashNBurn71

          PHPStorm unless it’s improved since about 2-3 years ago was mostly crap (IMHO). NetBeans is ok, Eclipse not so much, but I’m not installing Java when I’m no longer doing Java development. Aptana and WebStorm look interesting thanks.

          I currently use, EmEditor and CodeLobster for differing uses.

          These kinds of SitePoint articles are almost always useless as they almost always just compare a couple (2-4) of and leave out any reasonable comparison. Better off looking at a Wikipedia article or google/bing for blogs that tend to give a nice overview of 10+ .

          Sublime has taken a dogs age to get anywhere near feature-complete with other editors. Its Zoom-code-view was a neat “trick” but really mostly useless — considering most half-decent editors allow you to Ctrl+Scroll to adjust the font-size up/down.

          Brackets looked interesting as well when Adobe first introduced it, but it was far from stable and was missing so many features that there was no reason to use it for more than toying around with.

          And Atom, geezus I’m not using an editor that requires I install a package manager (choclately).

          • I love Sublime, reason being it’s available on different OS’s and the interface and plugins are quite the same across the board. With the right plugins, Sublime can get pretty close to an IDE without all the cruft of workflow and slow lag to even operate.

            Too bad EmEditor or CodeLobster aren’t cross-system installs. That blue windows frame is hideous though.

        • Marcelo Santos

          Nice! lol!

      • Craig Buckler

        I have and it’s (a) an IDE and (b) only available on Windows. Please read the testing criteria!

      • Guess you never tried the editors from this article then. Visual studio is moving into the right direction regarding web development. But it’s way to heavy and doesn’t have a lot of extensions that make pumping out lines of code a breeze.

    • MichaelBrockington

      Still can’t beat UltraEdit – why was this not on the list, since it does all three platforms now?

      • Abdi Haikal

        I do really want to hear about these platform too…

      • Still can’t beat vi(m) – why was this not on the list, since it does all platforms now? ;)

        • Craig Buckler

          See the paragraph at the end of the first section…

          • missed the -tag … I definitely don’t want to refactor a project without a real ide, even if I can work pretty decent with the console. ;)

      • Craig Buckler

        I wasn’t aware UltraEdit was now multi-platform but it’s one I’ll look into. As mentioned, there are dozens of editors – it’s not feasible to test them all!

        • MichaelBrockington

          I’ve never come across another editor that can match UltraEdit’s “column mode”. Not something that everyone needs every day, but invaluable for some tasks where it can save hours.

          • lotan

            SublimeText2 has column editing…

          • Markus

            Nowadays every proper editor can do column editing, and btw before UltraEdit could do it. Sublime for example..

      • Danang Widiantoro

        I saw UltraEdit on windows and it looks good, but its not good on mac… have you tried UltraEdit on every platform? trust me sublime text is good…. :-D

      • Maybe because is paid software, and even if you say SublimeText2 is not free, you can use unregistered version long time.

  • Rakhi Dhavale

    I love Dreamweaver and Netbeans!

    • I liked them too, 5 years ago

    • jniden

      This is a few months old, but just drop dreamweaver, no firms are using it.

  • Brad

    I’m a Sublime Text user and I think it’s great — but I am keeping my eye on Atom, using it now and then. I feel that Sublime is not keeping up with the pace — updates are very slow and insignificant (to me generally), and I find some parts of Sublimes’ interface clunky and old.
    I hope Atom will be the editor that Sublime could have been.

  • Derek

    Nice break down. Thank you! I’ve only recently joined the dev army and am mostly limited to front-end web work (HTML, CSS, JS). I was trained on Dreamweaver and used it for the first few months of my professional life, but switched to ST2 at the suggestion of a co-worker. I’ve never looked back. I’ve tried out a few other programs and even did some personal work with Notepad++ (which is not that bad, but not quite up to snuff). I have to use Visual Studio for several of my work projects, but I like to pull my work into ST to work on it and just use VS to commit to TFS. I can’t stand not having multi-select available, as I use that almost all the time. I’ll have to check out Atom, but as much of an Adobe fanboy as I am, I’m not all that confident in Brackets after the rest of Adobe’s web/coding offerings. Still, I’ll probably check it out, too…just for giggles.

  • Thanks for this. I did not know about sublime text. I was using notepad++. Thanks you very much, now I am using sublime text. In my experience it is the best so far.

    • Craig Buckler

      Notepad++ is great and I still use it a lot on Windows … mainly because I have it set up to my exact liking following years of usage. It’s fast and easy to use, although can be a little unstable (plugins are often to blame). The rate of development has slowed and there are far fewer plugins being developed but it’s still a great editor.

      • I agree with you. I had also replace MS Notepad with Notepad++.

  • I totally agree with you about Sublime Text being the editor to beat at the moment. Although Atom is growing extremely quickly and I’m already finding packages that add functionality missing (even via plugins) on Sublime Text.

    I’ve decided to give Atom a go as my primary editor for a few days now and the only complaint has been the lack of built-in project management support.

    • YemSalat

      I would add the speed issues (kind of hard to switch from ST cause you get used to everything being instant)

      But yeah project management currently lacks in Atom. But they are working on it!

      • Ace Corpuz

        same here. it is really slow specially when coming from sublime text

    • demisx

      Poor project management in Atom is the main reason why I am still using the abandoned SublimeText. Hope, it improves soon, so I can fully switch to Atom.

      • Actually, I’ve been trying out Brackets since it went 1.0 recently and am very very impressed. I might actually switch to it entirely soon.

        • demisx

          How does it compare with Sublime? Speed, plugins? I’ve clicked on the “Check out new extensions” in the footer of their home page and it gives me a website error. Not good.

          • It has alternatives for almost all plugins I use on Sublime, plus a few more. It is definitely a bit rough on the edges for now, but the additional functionality (especially the quick-edit feature) more than make up for it.

          • riclf

            Could you give a couple of examples where it is rough on the edges. It may be ok for me, or it may be a deal breaker. Thanks.

      • Batavus Warrior
      • Sublime has picked back up over the past six months. There have been multiple dev releases just this past month.

  • dojoVader

    Sublime Text is far awesome, i use it when am frustrated with PHPStorm, Brackets only use it for Web Development but Sublime text for everything even my text reader.

    • Same here! I’ve tried to use others but at the end I find myself opening Sublime Text for editing or reading almost everything.

  • Corny

    Atom easier to install on linux? Is adding a ppa a big problem? Woah, no wonder ppl waste money on mac when they cannot do that simple thing.

  • M S

    Looks like they all have text on black background.

    Then they are equally useless, to me.

    • ???? That just takes a couple of clicks to change. Sublime Text and I guess the others are packed with a lot of co!or schemes for you to use…

      • M S

        You …guess?

        Everybody always say that its no problem.

        But then, when you actually try, you run into all kind of extra work and limitations.

        Easily readable text, is basic functionality.

        I don’t want to “tweak” my tool to get basic functionality.

        So can all these tools easily, like with one click, be switched to white instead of black/dark?

        And will there be ZERO negative consequences from this later, like add-ons that are made to work best in “black mode” or similar?

        I cant stand tools that fights against me, and when the very first thing i see is an UI i would hate to use, that’s a very bad sign.

        Bottom line, if all screens of a tool everywhere always shows it as black, and that is how its always installed, THAT is the look it “works best with”, then that is what you get.

        It means you start out as a sub-minority among the minority that uses the tool.
        Which usually means you’re fucked.

        • What I guess is that you haven’t actually tried them. Sublime just takes a couple of clicks to switch color schemes. You don’t have to tweak anything. And half of those schemes have light background…
          Brackets default color scheme is white so there you have it …

        • Kelderic

          With Sublime text, 2 clicks will change it to black text on a white background. Super easy, no crashing, always works.

    • Craig Buckler

      As Miguel has pointed out, Brackets default is dark on light but I changed it. All can be tweaked to your liking and, in most cases, it takes a few seconds unless you build your own theme.

  • Medet Tl

    Best ide is Visual Studio(talking about html/js/css editor part), with webEssentials extension, it becomes unbelievable easy to write scrips, html, css. Full shortcut support, full zencode support, full jshint, full js/html/css intellisense and it’s really beautiful, i’m not talking about microsoft now, you guys really punks if hate ms, they just do stuff, if you like you use it or not, nothing personal. Hope all this open source stuff someday will clone VS editor funtionality

    • Well… this comparison is on general purpose text editors…not IDE’s. In that case we would be talking about Phpstorm, Visual Studio, NetBeans, Eclipse, etc…

      I have Visual Studio on a pc for C# programming. But on my laptop I use Sublime Text for my web projects. I don’t see the use for installing a full IDE if I am just going to make scripts.

      So maybe that is why the majority of front end and even some back end devs would use a lighter, cheaper program. So at least in my case is not hate it is just a matter of when do you actually start needing a full IDE…So at the end is just a matter of preference as you said.
      I’m just curious, What makes a tool professional?

      • Medet Tl

        As said above – I was taking about file editor part. You can open any text or html file in studio As in sublime. And have full support of IDE. for example I have two versions of studio. First one is for projects, it’s full of extensions. second is lightweight, clean express version with web ess. plugin. When I open file it takes the same time as in notepad+, but better features. Tool become professional when it’s used by professionals. Note half of all developers have studio installed indeed. But they open those notepads as do it mac users. Like it makes person more pro. Nope it just makes more responsible for misspels. I tried all of those editors mentioned. Sublime had poor zencode no CSS color indicators or pickers. No js completion or shortcuts. But maybe someone someday would make those plugins. Atom is exact Brackets but no livereload. Recently used brackets for fast index crafting. No tag completion. And this stupid inlines. They are aweful. Nesting tags so painful. Then there was released web ess. plugin.

  • gregraven

    From what I understand, Adobe Edge Code CC is a version of Brackets. I do know that it will load extensions from the Brackets Registry.

  • Zhe Xiao

    i use so many code editor and sublime is the best one. fast and easy search. that’s very important for me.

  • Very well laid out comparison for these text editors!

    • Craig Buckler

      Thank you!

      • I am impressed by the Inline evaluation and watches in light table. It would help me a lot with js. Looks very promising! Never heard of it before but I’m glad I saw this article!

  • Russell Dempsey

    @craigbuckler:disqus Atom for windows does have an installer..

  • Have you tried to load a CSV file about 1GB in an editor that you compared above? UltraEdit has all of them features even more!

    • Craig Buckler

      Yes – see Round 4.

  • Zlati

    I also started with UltraEdit back in the days, than I moved to NotePad++, which seems pretty good even now for different languages not only web. Later I moved to Netbeans IDE, you know , it works everywhere too cause it’s Java based. I had experiment with Eclipse but I don’t like it too much, lately was trying it again cause of the Nodeeclipse. I was very motivated for SublimeText, but I was frustrated by the shortcuts, not needing same or close to notepad++ and Netbeans. Lately when I’m in a mood I use brackets, I like the look and feel and the growing number of plugins. It’s pretty stable for web development.

    • Craig Buckler

      Most of these editors allow you to configure shortcuts but you’ll need to invest some time in doing so…

  • Francesco

    What do you think about Espresso editor? I didn’t try it, but i’d like

    • Craig Buckler

      It’s Mac only so wasn’t part of the testing criteria.

  • Oyebanji Jacob Mayowa PyJac

    The Performance and responsiveness of Sublime Text Makes it my Every day Editor…

  • Rory Bradford

    Out of these I have used Sublime and Atom, and I favour Sublime whether on Windows or Linux simply because it is faster. As for Linux builds of Atom, if any one is interested I am trying to keep up to date with Ubuntu/Debian builds (.deb) here

  • my text editor history:
    vi(m) -> UltraEdit -> Notepad++ -> Sublime Text

    my ide history:
    Eclipse -> NetBeans -> PHPStorm

    PS: I also tried to use Brackets in the last weeks, but I have some problems with it: e.g. live edit and some other features don’t work if I try to edit template-files in a php project, for me it only works if I started a plain html / js (index.html) project. My next problem was that there isn’t a plugin for twig-template-support, so I moved on with sublime text.

  • techs

    sublimetext doesn’t have beautify in it that works as expected, there is always a bug, live reload doesn’t work on windows weird bugs i.e. open console in browser breaks the live connection, and lastly doesn’t have helpful auto complete like in chrome console. I wish there was a editor based on chrome console.

  • Craig Buckler

    Yeah, sort of. It arrived a little too late for this review…

    • Russell Dempsey

      That installer has been there and stable for a few weeks, but it does require chocolatey… either way, not as optimal as having a regular installer (though chocolatey makes windows app management feel so good).

  • Kelderic

    I recently discovered a new editor called “Lime”, which claims to be an open-source successor of sorts to Sublime. I haven’t tested heavily, but it looks pretty nice so far.

  • Vo Quoc Dat

    I have tried with Bracket and Sublime Text.
    With me, Sublime Text is faster and lighter than Bracket. But I am very excited with Git plugin in Bracket. It’s so useful and easily.
    I also use Git package in Sublime Text, but I think it is not good with Bracket

  • grigori

    I have tried them all in similar fashion.. mainly focusing on windows and linux

    atom still has some room to grow- mainly with stability.

    sublimetext and brackets are nice… brackets plugins system is growing really fast and some of the recent plugins including image editors inside plugins are pretty awesome….

    my tool of choice is RubyMine from IntelliJ… really awesome… brackets/sublimetext on the side for change of scenery every so often….

  • Craig Buckler

    You have to compile it and that takes half an hour. How many people have done that?

  • Nigel

    Two questions (the first is the important one):

    Is there a practical way of developing HTML, CSS, and Javascript applications on an Android tablet, without connecting to the web?
    Just for interest, how does notepad++ compare to editors on Craig’s shortlist?

    • Craig Buckler

      This is a little old now but may help:
      (Incidentally, I’d recommend ES File Explorer now)

      There are a few comments about Notepad++ in this thread. I still like it and use it a lot. It’s fast and very configurable although stability can be questionable and few plugins have been released recently.

      • Nigel

        Thanks again :)

  • TheTree

    You left out the best, BBedit has been on the Mac for around 20 years and it rocks!

  • nadimtuhin

    Sublime is more like a religio ;)

  • Vimal Raj

    Sublime is the best one for me. I use it for web development (PHP, html, CSS), automation testing framework development (ruby, python) and as a advanced text editor.

  • Duran

    I’ve been with Homesite for 14 years and while I still love it, it’s becoming harder to install on newer Windows versions plus it’s not cross-platform. My question about the above editors is a simple one: can they be set up to show black text on a white background? Some of us have eye issues with text on black backgrounds.

  • Craig Buckler

    I’ll review it when the Windows and Linux versions are released…

  • About once a year I evaluate as many code editors as I can get my hands on and I am consistently disappointed at their ability to auto-format PHP. Seems simple enough, but almost every code editor seems to have issues with this. Thankfully I found that PhpEd auto-formats PHP perfectly as far as I can tell. I’m always looking for alternatives, but I keep coming back to PhpEd.

  • Emacs and Vim both have GUI versions :(

    • YemSalat

      And they both suck at it :)

  • Wonderful post ! I’m a Sublime text fanatic, but it’s always good to know about the alternatives.

  • MrDarkside

    Any thoughts on Aptana? does anyone here remember HotDog Web Editor? :)

    • Craig Buckler

      I’d class Aptana as an IDE. I haven’t used it for a little while but it’s certainly not an app you’d want to start more than once per day.

      • MrDarkside

        Ok, why not?

        • Craig Buckler

          Because it’s got a lot of language-specific functionality and is a monolithic application which takes an age to start! It’s not really comparable with the editors above.

    • Markus

      This article is about text editors. And Aptana is slow even for an IDE.
      Additional to that, Eclipse is a UX nightmare.

  • Craig Buckler

    Ahh, Homesite. I remember it well – it was one of the first decent web editors. Isn’t it getting a little creaky now?

    All the editors above have multiple themes including dark text on light backgrounds.

    • Duran

      Long time getting back to you, but thanks. I genuinely have no problem with Homesite and think it fits perfectly within the remit of this post, in terms of being in between basic editor and over the top IDE.

      But, I’ve just ordered a Macbook Pro after 16 years of Windows, so I’m going to be forced to choose one of the options here. Probably Sublime Text.

  • joysword

    Good article! I searched for comparison article because I just found there are several ‘new’ editors that looks just like sublime text and was wondering should I give them a try. Although I didn’t use others, what you said about ST is completely correct. And, as I just found out that I’m coding not just for the web, I think I would stick to ST for a while, while waiting for Atom to grow stronger. Thanks the for the good comparison!

  • For web designers Pinegrow is just amazing…

  • Another promising and very versatile editor / platforme is CodeAnywhere, because it also has an iPad version, works with GitHub and dropbox and features a web browser version. So for editing on the go on your tablet is excellent. 

    • riclf

      But it’s a web editor, not included in the criteria for the review here.

      • Just it is true but you know, you find the most amazing apps there where you less expect, mostly in a comment or a forum or anywhere else looking for something else mostly…

  • 人生写手

    sublime text +1

  • Dave Nicolai

    I tested most of these on Linux (KDE Desktop) and as best as I can tell none of them have HiDPI support. Sublime mentions HiDPI support in the change log but I don’t see any option to enable it. I ended up going back to Kate, the lack of HiDPI support makes the other apps unusable.

  • Also worth mentioning that Atom will not be free forever.

  • I’ve been running Brackets, Sublime, VIM, and Notepad++. As you might guess, VIM and Notepad++ are my long-in-the-tooth Editors. Personally, I never gained the obscene speed and mastery over VIM that others seem to pick up. I’m efficient, but not godlike.

    I really started favoring Sublime as soon as version 2 hit. At the time, there really was nothing that could compete with Sublime… amazing interface, fast, boat loads of plugins, and the selection tools in specific really won me over from VIM. I was able to do complex edits and bulk formatting so much more quickly on Sublime than VIM (and of course, faster than Notepad++).

    More surprising to me was when I found myself favoring Brackets just a few months ago. I’d tried it out off and on since it first started making public binaries, but I’d always come away unimpressed. As time has passed, however, I’ve found myself not only enjoying it as an editor, but actually feeling less comfortable when I use other editors. The quality-of-life aspects of Brackets really shouldn’t be understated… this editor is designed, from the ground up, to be pleasant, logical, and powerful… which is everything that I personally want, in an editor.

    When you factor in that I’m a web developer, and I do most of my debugging/testing in Chrome, it’s a natural fit. I can test for mobile, desktop, and other case scenarios, edit in real time, and experience a very rapid flow with only Brackets and Chrome open. If you have two monitors… ecstasy is inbound.

    Conclusion (from my standpoint): Brackets is the winner for Web Developers… Sublime and VIM still hold the crown across the board as the old faithfuls you want in your kit. And there’s no reason not to have them all!

    But personally, despite the promise of other editors, I have to assume that Brackets is the best positioned to emerge as the next gen editor going forward. The community is on fire, development is fast, and it’s constantly just getting better and better. And the editor can be recommended to others with precious little obstacles (it’s easy for newbies, it’s powerful for the seasoned hacker).

    Note: UltraEdit, Komodo, Eclipse, Coda fans… a lot of us absolutely *hate* full blown IDEs. They’re slow as molasses, they’re generally quite ugly (save for Coda, which is lovely), and they force you to adopt their workflows. If they work for you, I think that’s awesome! As they’re extremely powerful, especially in the right contexts. But I know for myself, I prefer a more modular workstation. I like to pick and choose each tool independently.

    • Mr. Bannana

      I think you should update this article as things have changed with Atom and Brackets.

  • Ace Corpuz

    I just tried Atom, and it is really sluggish when working in huge projects with many files, i have core i5 processor and 16 gb of ram

  • Have you tried Peppermint?

    We’ve released its very first 1.0 version and since yesterday we’ve moved to 1.1, plus we’re also offering a trial version for all of you @

    So, please give it a try and let us know!

    Our goal is to build an awesome editor that really… *rocks* and we do need your input!

  • I been using Brackets since Pre 0.44 Coming from Dreamweaver after my Subscription ran out for me, Brackets is the winner here. As i dont use Git Atom does not offer anything i dont have in Brackets.

    With Brackets now on 1.0 and Fixing the Massive lag issue on Yosimite. I’m sold. I cant go back.

    …….Now to wait for a while white interface theme

  • Anony

    Great comparison. I really do agree that Atom has high potential for the feature, but for now I will make do with Sublime.

  • Jerry Gagliano

    Sublime text is great and been using it over a year now. Downloaded brackets v1.0 and I have to say it’s pretty impressive and was able to adapt to it quickly.

  • wet sock

    On Linux:
    Sublime,I love how I could just donwload the zipped file and unpack and run from the folder.
    I gave up trying to install Atom! Sublime is very mature the others have some maturing to do.

  • demisx

    The problem with Sublime is that it is supported just by one guy, who is also a Director of the company. Bugs and there’s been no release for a long, long time. It was such a good editor. Pity.

    • Johann Gerell

      There are recent releases and ST is better than ever :)

      • demisx

        IMHO, still can’t compare to the features and support level of WebStorm (and I use both). There are real people responding to my questions within 24 hours.

  • Thanks Craig!

    I just went to a Node.js Conf in Nashville and everyone was using Atom. I started questioning why I was using Sublime Text.

    From what I see here, I’ll keep Atom around but for now I’ll stick with SublimeText.


    • demisx

      I’ve just switched to Atom from Sublime a few days ago and I like what I see. Sure, it’s not as fast as ST yet, but the level of support and customization options are amazing.

  • Sander H.

    how about adding a point on performance. your speed and stability only hints towards it, but in the end just falls back to how fast it opens a file.

    performance as in rapid clicking through the user interface where every editor build based on html css nodejs and whatever falls behind on sublime text with great lengths.

    I would love for these ‘future’ minded editors to become better at performance, then they have a chance of beating sublime out of this list. but for now sublime is practically the only worthy choice in from the above mentioned 4 editors. especially if you have to develop with it 10 hours a day.

  • I’ve switched to Brackets … it’s super easy to install and start using … also it’s a better fit for working with JS and other web related stuff. (btw it’s free and open source)

  • howie__feltersnatch

    >not using PICO

  • Peyman Mehrabani

    Currently Sublime Text 3 is not supporting bidirectional languages like Arabic and Persian and it is a big shortage for this text editor.

  • If my girlfriend knows I spend the time I’m not with her reading and discussing stuff like this… I just don’t want to know what would she do to me…

  • Joshua Paul

    atom can’t open files < 2MB!!! take it off the list.

    • demisx

      Yeah, this was one of the reasons I’ve switched to Brackets.

  • Joshua Paul

    Also take Brackets of the list – it has a 16MB file limit.

  • VIM – When I need to do some serious ultra-fast coding
    Atom – For casual, medium pace coding
    PHPStorm – Ultra-big projects

  • Wayne

    Been using Dreamweaver for years. But I have deiced to move on a find a better editor. Especially since I’m building all my new sites with SASS. Brackets and Sublime Text 3 are my editors of choice. They both have great SASS support and easy to install plugins. Also since the new release of Brackets 1.1 its much more stable then before.

  • Sascha Nemeth

    I found and use Sublime for a year now. And thanks to this little thing, I got in contact with this new world which showed me, how editors should be and archived a place into my “software I can’t live without”-list.

    + Fast, Stable & really flexible
    + Really good built-in features. (minimap, session-save, snippets, omnishortcut)
    + Suits thanks extensions all languages
    + Good matured extensions
    + Multiplatfom (work with Mac, Windows and Linux)

    minimalistic philosophy
    missing gui features for configuration and plugins them self
    configuration is a mess (you can’t remember all your changes over time)

    From my point of view the last thing is really a mess. If your configuration becomes bigger and bigger, you losing the overview. If you then have to configure a fresh install again… have fun and much of “time” to reconfigure it.

    I really miss a better interface (or gui-api) for sublime. Which will grant a comfortable way to configure and but gives extensions the possibility to use them to create own interfaces.

    But thanks to the minmalistic pholosohpy of the sublime community, I don’t think that this will ever happen.
    So my eyes following the development of ATOM and other editors. And if some of them will accomplish sublime like flexilibiltiy and performance, I could think to switch over.

    But for the moment, Sublime will be my favourite.

  • Randy Preising

    Someone else here mentioned Espresso. I emailed the developer a few weeks ago asking about future development of the app and heard nothing back. Not encouraging.

  • André

    What a detailed write up, thanks for sharing.

  • taariqq

    Craig, thanks for the review. If I may, so how do you solve the font rendering on Brackets? I use it on Linux and if I look at the same code on Sublime Text, Brackets starts looking ordinary.

  • Tejaswi Bitra

    I used Netbeans till Recently someone recommended to try out Atom. It is the next best thing to Sublime text as of now. And it is free :) Great news for freelancers like myself.

    • demisx

      It’s the next best thing until you try to edit files over 2MB or notice a weird selection bug that constantly deletes letters around your selection. :)

      • Tejaswi Bitra

        Maybe I spoke too soon. Will check it out. Else I have to fall back on Netbeans.

        • demisx

          Next thing to try after Atom is Brackets. It doesn’t have those annoying bugs, but still missing lots of basic functionality. If you need a real editor and don’t mind paying $80 for a license, then WebStorm 10 is what you need. This is what I’ve ended up with and never looked back. Best luck.

          • YemSalat

            Or maybe just stick with ST? No need to downgrade to a slug machine.

  • alsarg72

    If you’d rather not shell out for Sublime Text after using it unregistered for too long, you’re a bum! My work doesn’t pay for shit, but I bought Sublime Text because the devs deserve my monetary support for making my development life so much happier.

  • clod

    I like to use Codelobster

  • Randy Preising

    The developer of Espresso did eventually contact me. They say they’re working on another version but no plans on when it’s rolling out. Hmm. Brackets is working for me.

  • Atom just released a V1.0. Recently they also fixed large file support (mostly) so I have made the jump from Sublime to Atom. So far so good. Not quite as snappy as Sublime on launch but thats not really significant to my work day.

  • Steven Hunt

    Brackets is a nice concept, but I definitely found that it crashes every now-and-then and the “find in all files” option is basically unusable. SublimeText is lightning fast and easy to use, but ultimately I ended up switching to WebStorm IDE. It’s in the same price range as Sublime but has way more capability and the performance is acceptable. If you’re just starting out, I would avoid IDEs that “hold your hand” so that you are not dependent on the tool, but once you’ve got more experience the productivity boost is certainly helpful.

  • I’m using later versions of all of these so I’m sure lots of things have change. I use phpStorm / webStorm for my heavy duty projects and never even thought to try one of these for them so not sure if the issue with large project / files have been address yet or not. I’ve been configuring / learning ST2 for about 3 years now so thought there was no way I was going to change my editor full time but after installing Brackets and Atom I’ve enjoyed them both. I’m not quite sure *Why* I like Atom better but it just feels better. So much so that even though I do think ST2 still has the edge on performance and stability I’ve switched to using Atom as my primary editor and just use ST2 as my backup.

  • tyger11

    Brackets 1.4 just came out yesterday, and this release was focused on performance, and it is fast – damned fast.

    Another entry that’s become available since this was written is by Microsoft of all people – Visual Studio ‘Code’. Almost as fast as the new version of Brackets, and much more feature rich by default, with integration with Git out of the box. It’s only at v0.5, so that’s a very impressive start for a first beta release.

    I’m looking forward to how these two evolve over the coming months.

  • webftp

    Cloud9 and CodeEnvy are open source, they can be installed on a local machine so they can be used offline. In “too web-oriented”, I understand “excluded for no particular reason”.

    Else Atom is my favorite.

  • kirbyfan64sos

    You forgot my favorite editor: Howl. :( It opens 16k LOC about as fast as Sublime but is as hackable as Atom and even uses a similar language (CoffeeScript vs MoonScript).

  • yakoudbz

    I would also recommend Sublime Text but not for the same reason. It’s the best for simple .txt file or .csv, it’s also the best for coding in C/C++, or any language that does not heavily depend on the web.

  • Robin Munn

    It’s now been a year since this smackdown was written, and I’m sure the field has changed. For example, Atom now has Linux packages available, making it easy to install. And I just loaded a 4.25 MiB file (the Project Gutenberg text of the King James Bible) into Atom, and it didn’t complain one bit. Scrolling was a little slow for the first few seconds as the spellchecker got to work on the file, but after about five seconds I could hold down the PgDn key and scroll as fast as the operating system reported repeat keypresses. LightTable has just released an alpha of version 0.8 (a development team changeover is largely responsible for LightTable’s relatively slow development so far), and may have some new features too. And I don’t know anything about Brackets or SublimeText, but I’d be surprised if they’ve been standing still in the past year.

    Any chance of a new editor smackdown at some point?

    • Craig Buckler

      Yes, it has changed – but not too radically. Brackets and Atom now have post v1 releases although they’re still familiar. Sublime Text hasn’t moved on much but some would say it doesn’t need to. LightTable has fallen behind but perhaps development will pick up now.

      As of October 2015, I find myself using Atom more than Sublime. Many of the issues have been sorted out and it’s a great editor. Today, I’d probably put them joint first.

  • I finally choose Sublime, because it’s the only one text editor which can catch up with my typing speed.

  • I’d strongly say that Atom 1.0 on Windows should take the win in the UI

  • Pedro

    I use NetBeans (Web) at work for PHP/Laravel/JavaScript/HTML/CSS for the amazing code completion/resolution (when you are digging into a framework like Laravel, you wanna know how stuff is made behind doors and NetBeans lets you do just that, CTRL+Click on the class/method/whatever and it jumps there), but boy! Is it slow as hell even on an i7! At home I’m using Brackets, it simply works amazingly well out of the box. I’ve tried Sublime Text but it seemed far more complicated than I wanted and I didn’t want to spend that much time learning it.

  • Claudio Téllez

    Brackets is my weapon of choice. Front-end development focused, extendable as needed and the photoshop extension is very useful. It has become pretty stable after 1.3. Right out the box is very basic so it doesn’t harm performance.

  • u8y7541

    Hmmm, screenshots of Sublime on Win7 hurt my eyes, but on Win10 it looks beautiful :)

  • Markus

    the source code is open, its MIT licensed..
    Which means people could make their version a commercial version, right, but the source code is still there the community would just continue..

    But of course GitHub wouldnt do it in first place – their companys success is made by open source software only, it makes no sense in no kind of way and if you dont share.

    btw its perfectly normal for a company to frist develop the software to a point where it doesnt look too bad before putting the source code online..
    that doesnt mean that it was commercial and then made open source..

    I dont even know how to explain this world to you..

  • I’ve tried a number of editors now. I love Coda and SKEdit on my Mac. I have enjoyed using DW in the past and I use Brackets. There are others in that list. The one I have found I have used the most over the last year or so though is PHPStorm. Again, commercial and costly (especially now they have moved to yearly subscription based) but it has lots of plugins to use too.

    I’ve worked on a site and its been nice with all the different content types.

    That said, I have contemplated sublime as an editor for other language support – such as Python; though it would be nice to know that if I were to work in a language that has a compiler if I could compile straight from Sublime or if there is a better editor I can do this in..

  • Mars_Ultor

    KomodoEdit is very underrated, I use it above all these (althoug for speed you cant beat Sublime). Komodo has built in FTP, huge syntax support and lots of plugins.

  • One more thing in favor of Sublime Text: it’s a native app as opposed to a web app, so in addition to being faster it’s also more resource friendly. One thing I noticed with all the Node.js-based editors is the egregious memory consumption. I guess this makes sense since you are essentially loading a second browser instance whenever you run these web apps.

  • Nagesh

    I slowly realize that Lighttable is not for everyone. It is too complex to setup and get going. Atom and Sublime have my vote. There is a new kid on the block. It go by name of “Visual Studio Code”

  • Mateus Souza

    I’ve always used Sublime Text 3 as my HTML and CSS editor. It was (and still is) pretty good, and the plugins were awesome. However, I noticed the development was slowing down… No more Sublime Text 3 builds (I was at Build 3083) for a long time… Then I decided to get another editor. I got Atom, and liked it. Used for more time, and I still use it for some things (Desktop languages, like C)… Then I heard of Brackets. I downloaded it, and it seemed pretty cool to me. However, I didn’t like the default theme, and at the time, I didn’t know how to download themes. I came back to Atom, and used it for more time. Then, I found a blog post teaching how to install extensions and themes in Brackets. I watched it, and re-downloaded Brackets (I uninstalled it before switching back to Atom). Now I use Brackets as my main code editor. I only use HTML, CSS and JavaScript. My syntax theme at the moment is Monokai Darker Soda, which is beautiful (except for the fact that function names are white, just like variable names, which kinda annoys me, but I don’t get THAT annoyed).

    PS: I also tried some IDEs before switching from Sublime Text to Atom, but I hated them. They’re very slow, are generally ugly (except for a few, like WebStorm) and force you to adopt the way they work. Sometimes, they don’t even support themes (sorry if that was just a lack of search), and I don’t feel comfortable without Monokai. When they coincidently work the way you want, they’re good and extremely powerful. However, I haven’t found any IDE that works the way I work, and I prefer to pick everything like I want instead of having everything for me, except for what I want.

  • Adam Rasheed

    Awesome article! After using most of these for a couple of years, I think a big part of a text editor’s success is the community around it, and for that reason, Sublime Text and Atom have been killin’ it. Really hoping Bracket catches on!

  • Zain Javed

    I like Brackets. Atom is too slow and sublime text doesn’t have live preview feature.

  • After one year of Atom usage I can now say that there are a few problems that still weren’t solved (on Windows):

    1. Performance: Not only the startup needs much time and it always asks if you want to quit the application, but also
    – Reopening Atom after you’ve focused another application
    – Opening a file
    – Text selection and cursor actions in general
    – The first file save in a session takes several seconds
    2. It often replaces new files with existing tabs, which is annoying if you want to jump between them quickly